Your Guide to Washington State Vehicle Title Transfers

Thinking of taking advantage of the hot car market and selling your car? Or perhaps you need a new ride because your car is on its last legs? Regardless of buying or selling, a title transfer must happen to officially mark a change in ownership. Read on to learn more about how to transfer a car title in Washington state and what to do in various situations.

How to Transfer a Car Title in Washington State | Metromile

What is needed for a title transfer in WA?

What’s required for a title transfer in WA will depend on whether you’re buying or selling — there are nuances in the process based on the situation (more on that later). But in general, you’ll need:

Does Washington require emission testing? 

According to the Department of Ecology in Washington, the program was phased out on January 1, 2020, after a 38-year run.

Instead, with The Clean Car Law, Washington state has adopted California’s strict emission standards and vehicles from 2009 and later must be CARB-compliant. If not, it won’t be possible to register the vehicle in the state. 

If you’re buying a used vehicle from 2009 and later, it must meet the required emission standards. Buyers must know this important fact before buying a car from a private individual or dealership. 

Vehicles from 2008 or earlier and cars purchased by a nonresident who later became a WA resident are two of the notable exceptions. 

How to transfer a car title in Washington state

As noted above, there are some different processes when it comes to doing a Washington state vehicle title transfer based on the situation. Here are some common situations and how to transfer a car title in Washington state. 

Buying from a dealership 

If you buy a vehicle from a dealership in Washington, they’ll take care of the title transfer process for you. All you need is your current driver’s license. The dealership should complete the Washington state vehicle title transfer process within 45 days. 

Buying from an individual 

If you bought a car on the private market from an individual, you’ll need to transfer ownership within a 15-day period to avoid penalties (from $50 up to $125). You’ll need the current title from the previous owner and to fill out a Vehicle Title Application. If the car is from 2011 or later, fill out the odometer disclosure. 

Here’s the important part: the title application must be signed in the presence of a notary public or a qualified licensing agent from a local office. 

You and the seller must also complete a Bill of Sale. Bring the Bill of Sale, title, title application, and payment to a local office. The office can determine how much you may pay in fees. 

It can take between 8 to 10 weeks to receive your title. If you need to expedite the process, you can pay $85.50 for the title and fees and go to a Quick Title Office. To finalize the process, you’ll need to get new license plates. 

Selling a vehicle 

If selling a vehicle, you need to complete a title transfer in WA to make the change in ownership official. As part of that, make sure you have a valid title. 

Fill out the Bill of Sale and include the VIN, license plate number, sale price, and buyer info. Remove your license plates before handing over the car. Finally, submit a Vehicle Report of Sale form within 5 days and pay $13.25. 

Missing vehicle title 

If you have lost the vehicle title, you’ll need to get a replacement to transfer ownership. You can do that by filling out and submitting an Affidavit of Loss/Release of Interest that is signed and notarized. To get it within 8 to 10 weeks, you’ll pay $35.50. If you need it ASAP, pay $85.50 and go to a Quick Title Office to get one immediately. 

Title transfer in WA as a new resident with an out-of-state title 

If you move to Washington, you’ll need to update your license, title, and registration. Get a new Washington driver’s license within 30 days of your move. 

Gather your current title and fill out and submit a Vehicle Title Application to a local office. If you go into the office, you can sign it in front of an agent. If mailing, it must be notarized. 

Have a lien on your vehicle? Your lender must send over a copy of the title to the licensing office and when the vehicle is paid off you can get a Washington title. 

If your vehicle is from 2011 or later, you’ll need to fill out the Odometer Disclosure on the title. Vehicles from 2010 and before are exempt. If the car is from 2009 or later, it must meet certain emission standards. 

If you’ve owned your car from another state for less than 90 days, you’ll need to provide a Bill of Sale. The last steps are to pay fees determined by the licensing office and get new license plates. 

If the car owner has passed away 

If the owner of the vehicle passes away and you inherit the vehicle, you’ll need to fill out a Vehicle Title Application within 15 days. 

Without probate 

If the process avoids probate and the estate has a value less than $100,000, submit a death certificate and Affidavit of Inheritance/Litigation

With probate 

If it is part of probate or other legal or court actions, then you must fill out the same form plus a letter of administration or testamentary.

Giving the car to a family member 

As you change cars, you may hand down your old vehicle to a family member who could use it. You must complete a Bill of Sale and put the sale price as zero since it’s a gift. 

Sign and hand over the title and submit a Vehicle Report of Sale to finalize the process and pay $13.25 according to the Washington State Licensing Department. Gifting a car is one of the exemptions that don’t require removing license plates. 

The recipient of the vehicle will need to take steps to transfer ownership within 15 days and can follow the steps in buying a vehicle from an individual section. 

Washington state vehicle title transfer cost

Getting a new title in Washington will cost you $35.50 and will take approximately 8 to 10 weeks. If you can’t wait that long, the cost will be $85.50 to get a title ASAP. 

The bottom line 

The process for how to transfer a car title in Washington state can vary a bit based on your unique situation. Follow the steps above to make sure you take the appropriate steps to complete a Washington state vehicle title transfer and check the Department of Licensing website for current information. When updating your title, it might be a good time to shop around for new car insurance as well. If you’re a low-mileage driver, making the switch to pay-per-mile car insurance could be more affordable. Pay based on the miles you drive and save, because if you drive less, you should pay less. Grab a free quote with Metromile

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.